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New Education Secretary Nicky Morgan backs CSJ on state boarding school expansion

Sending more children from challenging backgrounds to state boarding schools is a vital measure to solving educational failure, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has said in a new report.

The study, which calls for more to be done to attract top teachers to failing schools, reveals shocking levels of educational failure in England and offers a package of reforms for general election manifestos.

It found 40 per cent of the poorest children leave primary school functionally illiterate. In some of the poorest areas of the country, only one in four children on free school meals get five good GCSEs including Maths and English.

Crucially, the report also highlights that only seven per cent of primary schools in England are on track to meet radical Conservative plans to ‘end illiteracy in a generation’.

The Closing the Divide report says increasing the number of state boarding schools – which currently stands at 36 accommodating around 5,000 pupils – could help improve the educational achievements of vulnerable children from difficult homes.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said the CSJ was "absolutely right to recognise the transformative impact state boarding schools can have". The Sun also backed the move, saying in an editorial that if the Government does not implement it then Labour should “outflank” them by supporting it.

The CSJ also wants to see more incentives to encourage good teachers and head teachers to struggling schools. It calls for two year Ofsted ‘inspection holidays’ for heads who move to take over failing schools and urges that successful academy chains should be offered payment-by-result contracts to take over underachieving schools.

The report was covered by the BBC, the Telegraph and The Sun. Click here to listen to CSJ Policy Director Alex Burghart outline the study on LBC radio. Report author Lee Davis wrote a blog for Conservative Home, which is available here.

Christian Guy, CSJ Director, said: “Educational failure can have a crushing impact on life chances and prevent children reaching their potential.

“This is an enormous social injustice and an economic threat which deprives our country of its considerable and diverse talent.

“Every school in this country can be excellent – inspirational and transformative teaching should be a norm not a privilege.”

The report is part of the CSJ’s Breakthrough Britain 2015 investigation into poverty and social breakdown in the UK. Recommendations from six chapters are expected to feature in the manifestos of mainstream parties in the run-up to next year’s general election.

The overall series will be launched on Thursday in central London at an event attended by leading political figures. Conservative policy guru Oliver Letwin will be joined by Pensions Minister Steve Webb and Lord Maurice Glasman, the originator of Blue Labour, to discuss the findings from the project. More details on the launch are available here.

Read earlier Breakthrough Britain 2015 reports: Ambitious for Recovery, Restoring the Balance, the Journey to Work and Fully Committed? A final report on the role of the voluntary sector in tackling poverty will be published next week.

Closing the Divide builds on a body of work the CSJ has done on education policy, including: Requires Improvement, No Excuses and Breakthrough Britain Education.